Planners to discuss proposal for new Larbert church

A controversial planning application to build a new church on land close to Kinnaird Primary school was due to come before councillors for the first time tomorrow.

However, all council meetings have now been cancelled due to coronavirus.

Ahead of the council planning committee meeting angry residents from Kinnaird Village came together last week at a public meeting organised by the campaigning group No Grace Church in Kinnaird.The £2 million building would be a permanent home for Grace Church – which was formed in 2013, when the minister and a group of elders from Larbert Old Parish broke away from the Church of Scotland when its General Assembly agreed to allow openly gay clergy to be appointed.The church, which now belongs to the International Presbyterian Church, is seeking to build on the site of the old Bellsdyke Hospital in McIntyre Avenue, Kinnaird Village.Grace Church have said the building will be a “vibrant community hub which can not only provide a permanent home for our growing church family, but also offer fantastic facilities to everyone in the local community”.Since the planning application was received by Falkirk Council, a total of 2025 public representations have been received in response, with 1060 objections, 958 in support and seven neutral.The public meeting heard that the planning paperwork reveals hundreds of the objections came from people living in the Kinnaird area.Although several intimations of support came from Larbert and Falkirk district, many are from across the UK and even further afield.Residents were unhappy that the planning process in Scotland gives all opinions equal weight, regardless of where they live.People were also concerned that the strict legal procedures mean they are unable to object to the use of the building by a church.Planning law states that ‘as a general principle, the identity of the applicant is not a relevant planning matter, as a grant of planning permission runs with the land and can therefore be implemented by any person or organisation (subject to the necessary legal arrangements with the landowner’.Several residents voiced their concerns that these rules do not allow them to object to the application coming from a church they believe is openly homophobic.However, the council has taken legal advice on the issue and the planners’ report concludes: “It would be unlawful for the Council to refuse planning permission on the basis that an applicant holds certain beliefs if the beliefs are intrinsic to the practice of their religion or genuinely held as a philosophical belief.”The church denies it is in any way homophobic and has said it will welcome everyone to the building.A huge area of concern, for many residents, is the parking situation which they say will have a big impact on road safety for those in nearby streets – in particular children – if the church achieves a 300-strong congregation.The church submitted revised plans that allow for 80 parking spaces but many residents are unconvinced this will be enough.The plans submitted, including a cafe, creche and hall, have been recommended for approval.

Site of proposed Grace Church in Kinnaird Village